The best new movies on Netflix, HBO Max and Prime (December 2022)

The last month of the year has finally arrived, and with it comes a bountiful crop of new movies available to stream to get us through the winter.

We’ve highlighted the best of the best new movies on Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Hulu and other streaming platforms in December 2022. Our list includes High-speed trainthe outrageous new action comedy from John Wick co-director David Leitch and starring Brad Pitt, 2004 Aquatic Life With Steve Zissou starring Bill Murray, a tender 2019 bromance about two men and a cow, and a neo-noir thriller and classic revisionist western drama to spice things up. If you are looking for a special atmosphere, we have a film for you.


Editor’s Choice

First reformed

Picture: A24

Year: 2017
Duration: 1h 53m
Director: Paul Schrader
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Cédric the artist

If I was asked to pick my favorite movies of the 21st century, I’d spend quite a bit of time trying to come up with my top pick. But I know First reformed would be in the running.

Paul Schrader is a filmmaker obsessed with contradiction, often pairing clusters of unlikely themes or characters to wonderful effect. We saw it very early with Taxi driver and more recently with card counter (or movies like Hardcore, Auto focusand Patty Heard), but for me the pinnacle is First reformed.

Anchored by a masterful performance by Ethan Hawke, First reformed follows a minister (Hawke) of a tiny, old congregation in New York. His church is more of a museum than a real congregation and is funded by a local mega-church led by a famous pastor (Cedric the Entertainer). For many filmmakers, this conflict alone would be rich enough to dive into. But Paul Schrader is not like many filmmakers.

Schrader delicately weaves a story of climate change, grief, and the challenges that lie ahead of us, both as individuals and as a society. What could easily be a downside (and it’s dark at times) for me instead manifests a very human connection, even in desperation. It’s a wonderful film, and I’m thrilled that more people can now watch it. —Pete Volk

First reformed is available to stream on HBO Max.

Thief

James Caan in Thief.

Picture: Warner Home Video

Year: nineteen eighty one
Duration: 2h 3m
Director: Michael Mann
Cast: James Caan, Tuesday Weld, Robert Prosky

Michael Mann’s 1981 neo-noir crime thriller is outstanding. The late great James Caan (The Godfather) stars as Frank, an expert safecracker and ex-con who dreams of retiring from his life of crime to pursue a normal life and raise a family. After losing the money from his last big heist, Frank agrees to sign on for another heist with a big gangster who, unbeknownst to him, plans to cheat on him once again. Even if you’ve never seen the movie before, you can probably put two and two together and guess how good it goes for the mobster. With stunning nighttime cinematography by Donald Thorin and a heart-pounding synth score by Tangerine Dream, Thief is a true marvel anchored by an inimitable lead performance. End of the presentation text. —Toussaint Egan

Thief is available to stream on First video.

New on Netflix

High-speed train

A man (Brad Pitt) intercepts a stab wound from another man (Bad Bunny) aboard a boxcar with a briefcase.

Image: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures

Year: 2022
Duration: 2h 7m
Director: David Leitch
Cast: Brad Pitt, Joey King, Aaron Taylor-Johnson

One of the greatest traditions of action film is to take a common, everyday location — say, a train — and promise an audience about two hours of outrageous violence in that mundane place. In this spirit, High-speed train – named after Japan’s famous high-speed commuter train – didn’t have to do much to succeed; a few good fights with fun cast and a neat ending would have sufficed. But Leitch, with the help of a stellar cast including Brian Tyree Henry, Bad Bunny, Joey King and debuting Brad Pitt, turns High-speed train in a nesting doll of misunderstandings and complications that escalate into a constant stream of jokes and violence, growing so large that the only way to stop it is to blow it all up. —Joshua Rivera

High-speed train is available to stream on Netflix starting December 3.

New on Hulu

Aquatic Life With Steve Zissou

Image: Buena Vista Pictures

Year: 2004
Duration: 1h 59m
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett

You know what you get with a Wes Anderson comedy, and Zissou is one of his best.

Dedicated to legendary French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, Murray plays Cousteau-style documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou, who embarks on a dogged quest to find and kill the shark that killed his best friend.

With a sprawling cast of Anderson regulars and an excellent soundtrack of David Bowie covers by Brazilian singer-songwriter Seu Jorge, Zissou excels not only because of the hilarious gags delivered by some of the funniest actors in the business, but because of Anderson’s typical attention to detail in his shot compositions. It’s a wonderful movie and a clown. It’s not an easy combo to nail. —VP

Aquatic Life With Steve Zissou is available to stream on Hulu.

The best of the rest

first cow

John Magaro wears a 19th century Pacific Northwest outfit while petting a very sweet cow in First Cow.

Picture: A24

Year: 2019
Duration: 2h 2m
Director: Kelly Reichard
Cast: John Magaro, Orion Lee, Toby Jones

One of my favorite films of the decade, first cow is a tender bromance about two men in 1820s Oregon, the unlikely friendship they form and a very sweet cow they meet and steal milk from (in a friendly way). They use this milk to cook treats, with their eyes on a life of comfort and security. —PV

From our rave review:

How Cookie and King-Lu’s story fits into a larger picture of American history isn’t nearly as important or as touching as how their relationship blossoms onscreen. They’re both odd ducks in Fort Tillicum, where the ability to punch and rowdy is a dominant force in gaining social status. King-Lu is more dreamy, while Cookie is more practical, but they are kindred spirits, despite their occasional arguments. […]

It’s the little things that make life worth living. The key to this rise is how well Magaro and Lee suit each other. Magaro’s sad eyes and slightly scratchy voice convey a gentleness and warmth, as he politely chats with the cow as he milks her. His low sense of uncertainty is offset by Lee’s self-confidence. Even when King-Lu experiences moments of doubt, Lee speaks with a reassuring timbre and deftly turns the dial between King-Lu’s professional sharpness and his genuine affection for Cookie as their situation gets complicated.

first cow is available to stream on Peacock.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

A close up of a bearded man (Warren Beatty) wearing a bowler hat.

Image: The collection of criteria

Year: 1971
Duration: 2h 1m
Director: Robert Altman
Cast: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois

In a body of films that includes undisputed classics such as The long goodbye and MASH POTATOES, this 1971 revisionist Western drama nevertheless stands out as the only one of Robert Altman’s works that Roger Ebert has defended as “perfect”. It’s not hard to see why — McCabe and Mrs. Miller is a terrific period drama fueled by the combined charisma of Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as an infamous gambler and street prostitute, respectively, who join forces to run a thriving brothel in a Pacific Northwest mining town in 1902. When a mining company attempts to buy off and later extort McCabe, he must resort to desperate measures to fend off a trio of bounty hunters and protect what is his.

With beautiful cinematography of the forests and hills of West Vancouver by Vilmos Zsigmond, sharp dialogue, compelling characters and a hauntingly plaintive score of songs written by the one and only Leonard Cohen, McCabe and Mrs. Miller is an exhilarating and tragic portrait of frontier life on the fringes of civilization, perfect for any fan of series like dead wood or movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. -YOU

McCabe and Mrs. Miller is available to stream on Criterion Channel.

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